The Australian Boomers have advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup where they will meet trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand following a convincing 97-71 quarterfinal victory over China.
Overcoming a 4-day break, the Boomers were also reduced to just 10 men after Cam Gliddon was a late withdrawal due to a foot injury and following the departure of David Andersen who was ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury.
The Boomers boasted four players in double figures, led by Jason Cadee's game-high 20 points (5-of-7 3PT). Mitch Creek continued his outstanding tournament by providing 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals, as Mitch McCarron piled on 17 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting including 3-of-3 from long-range. Daniel Kickert would drain 4-of-7 three-pointers to compile 16 points, as the Boomers shot a tournament best 12-24 from beyond the arc.
China opened the game trying to match the Australian's physical style of play, pushing out to an early 7-14 lead on the back of jumper from Gen Li. However Cadee and Creek would take control to steady the ship, and when McCarron connected on his first triple of the game, the Boomers had taken back the lead 18-16 and with all the momentum. Cadee would finish the period with 8 points, as a Creek dunk would eventually see the Australian's leading 26-23 in a highly entertaining first term.
6 straight points to China to open the second period saw them take back the lead. The ensuing play would see both teams trade leads, with Kickert and Angus Brandt getting involved offensively for the Boomers. A Brandt score put Australia back ahead, and thanks to a dunk by McCarron and baskets by Todd Blanchfield and Matt Hodgson, Australia led 45-42 at half time.
While it was China through Li who scored first in the second half, yet Cadee immediately responded with a three. China continued to threaten and would wrestle back the lead by 2 thanks to Guo mid-way through the term. Another Cadee three not long after would set the Boomers on a path from which they would never again trail. A blistering 14-0 run to finish the third term firmly placed Australia in the box seat, carrying a game-high 16 point margin into the final quarter after restricting China to just 13 points for the period.
The Boomer's defensive intensity remained unchanged, and with a handy buffer, it freed up the Boomers offense. Triples to McCarron, Cadee and Kickert gave China no respite, and when Kickert drained another two from long-range, the result was already beyond doubt, with the Boomers eventually prevailing by a commanding 26 points.
While Cadee, McCarron and Kickert were on fire, Creek was again the powerful workhouse behind the win as he continued to put his name up in contention for tournament MVP honours. Australia's shooting from range was exceptional, going 50% from downtown on 12-of-24 shots. When combined with their relentless defensive pressure which lead to an 17-6 advantage in steals which forced China into 24 turnovers, Australia were always in the box seat to win.
An old Oceania rivalry will be renewed in the semifinals, with trans-Tasman foes New Zealand making light work of Jordan, winning 98-70 to also advance. The red-hot Iran and Korea will meet in the other semifinal.
The Tall Black's leading scorers are Shea Ili (15.8ppg), Finn Delany (13.0ppg) and Tohi Smith-Milner (11.5ppg). The Tall Blacks always lift a level against the Australian's and it will likely be the biggest test of the Boomers in this tournament to date. The semifinal showdown with the Tall Blacks will take place on Saturday, 19 August at a time yet to be confirmed, with the playoff for medals scheduled for Sunday night.
Australia 97: Cadee 20, McCarron 17, Creek 16, Kickert China 71: G Li 19, A Guo 17, D Han 10
Boomers schedule for FIBA Asia Cup
August 8: Australia defeated Japan 84-68 August 10: Australia defeated Hong Kong 99-58 August 12: Australia defeated Chinese Taipei 90-50 August 17: Quarterfinals - Australia defeated China 97-71 August 19: Semifinals - Australia vs New Zealand at TBC August 20: Bronze and gold medal games
Fox Sports will be broadcasting every Boomers game live.